Galvin at Windows

Hilton Hotel, 22 Park Lane, London, England, W1K 1BE, United Kingdom

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Editor's note. In August 2013 it was reported in The Caterer that head chef Andre Garret was moving to Cliveden, so there will be some change in the kitchen here. Taking over the stoves is previous sous chef Joo Wan, who has worked at the restaurant for eight years.

On my lunch visit London was having an unusually sunny day, so here showed off the view from this rooftop restaurant to its best.  The bread was supplied by Boulangerie de Paris, my favourite London baker (16/20), and the butter from Normandy was good. The wine list was better than I recall, though it still has some hefty mark-ups in places.  Andre Kientzler Pinot Gris 2008 was £39 for a wine that retails at £8, Didier Dagenaux Silex 2008 was fairly priced at £145 for a wine that will set you back around £71 retail, Antinori Tignanello 2001 was a high £245 compared to a shop price of about £66, while Penfolds Grange 1997 (a lesser vintage of this wine) was a chunky £520 compared to a retail price of around £157. To be fair, the wine list has 50 wines between £18 and £30, so there is plenty of choice at the lower end of the list. There were some modestly priced wines, such as the Pinotage Man Vintners 2008 at £24 for a wine that you can buy in the shops for around £6. We drank my favourite Vintage Tunina 2007 at £90 for a wine that costs £30 retail.

A pair of seared Scottish scallops were served with a garnish of wild sea vegetables and oyster emulsion. The scallops were cooked nicely, but as could be seen when cutting the scallops, they were not quite fresh, though by London standards they were OK (the scallops in a good restaurant in Paris or the more ingredients-centric UK restaurants are much superior to these). Still, this was a pleasant dish (15/20).

My cured Loch Duart salmon was topped with Cornish crab, avocado cream and fennel compote. The salmon had good flavour, the crab was quite fresh and the avocado cream went well with the crab and salmon; for me the fennel compote was one flavour more than necessary, but this was a nicely balanced, refreshing dish (15/20). John Dory from the south coast of England was of reasonable quality, cooked just a fraction longer than ideal, garnished with orange-braised endive, cauliflower puree, curry oil and golden raisins. The curry oil was an interesting idea though it was a little too strong a flavour here, but the puree was fine and the endive good (15/20).

Cotswold white chicken was nicely cooked but surprisingly lacking in taste, served with tender tortellini, nicely cooked broad beans, wild garlic and a jus that also rather lacked flavour, presumably reflecting the lack of flavour of the bones from which it was made (14/20). Cheese was from La Fromagerie and in generally very good condition (16/20). St Nectaire, Morbiere and quite soft Roquefort were highlights. For dessert we shared a tarte tatin. This was cooked a little longer than I like it, but the pastry was good and the main criticism was that it was a touch too sweet; still, a well-made tatin tatin (15/20).

No Fred Sirieix in the dining room today, but the service was attentive and professional. Head chef Andre Garrett was also having a day off, but I doubt that this made any real difference to the meal. The bill came to £155 a head, with three courses, a shared cheese, coffee and good but hardly crazy wine. This just seems too high for the level of food delivered. Admittedly there was a cheap lunch available at £29 each compared to £65 for the a la carte route that we went down, but it is the extras that add up.

The notes below are from a meal in August 2006.

Chris Galvin has been tempted away from the Baker Street bistro to relaunch the restaurant Windows on the World, at the top of the Hilton Park Lane, with Andre Garret lured away from Orrery to be head chef.  Hayler’s law says that food gets worse as it gets higher (think of airline food) and Windows on the World has historically followed that rule to the letter.  Hence I was interested to see whether Mr Galvin could, as it were, defy gravity and produce decent food at such heights.  Mostly, it seems that he can.  The setting is spectacular on a clear summer night such as this.  From our window table we could look into the Queen’s back garden and over at the Battersea Power Station, observe the MI6 building and even see Crystal Palace.  The dining room is pretty much all windows, with a brown carpet and oddly low wooden chairs to bring you down to earth. 

Staff are formally dressed and the service was generally excellent, with flawless topping up of bread, water and wine, though there was a delay in serving the petit fours.  The waiting staff were just a bit overly keen to sell you extra wine, but otherwise the service was fine.  The wine list stretches over 17 pages but is a bit of a let down; growers are generally not the finest, and markups are fierce and inconsistent.  A simple Torres Gran Coronas 2010 was £34 for a wine that retails at £9.36, but a 1990 Vega Sicilia Unico was a simply ludicrous £898 for a wine that is £108 retail if you look carefully. This is over eight times retail, perhaps the worst markup I can recall.  They should be ashamed of themselves. I even asked the “sommelier” (who seemed entirely clueless) about this and he just shrugged uncertainly, as if the wine list had nothing to do with him.

Bread is either baguette, white or whole grain rolls or slices of olive bread, and is of good quality (15/20). The bread is bought in from Marcus Miller, though the waiter initially tried to pretend that it was lovingly made by the staff here “they come in early each morning to make it”.  Actually no, they come in to take delivery of it from a van.  The menu is appealing, with sensible ingredient combinations and fairly expensive produce e.g. wild halibut rather than, say, offal or pollack.


Further reviews: 04th Feb 2017 | 21st Mar 2015

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  • Fred Sirieix

    Dear Andy, Thank you for visiting us last week. I am glad you enjoyed your meal although you felt it could have been better. I would like to make a couple of small observations: -our wine list has 50 wines between £18 and £30 giving a wide range of wines to choose from at excellent value for money. -we do indeed do an excellent value lunch at £29 for 3 courses or £45 for 3 course with wine, water and coffee. -I am glad the service was good and attentive. We have an excellent tean who believe in our values and overall vision. I was in Blackpool on Friday to speak at a conference called PACE (the organisation that represents the 280-catering colleges in the UK). Indeed much has changed in our industry but not as much as it should and we (the professionals) need to do what we can to help the necessary cultural change. My speech will be up on my blog very soon. -Andre was on annual leave and on a well deserved break (he actually came back today from his leave-2 days before he was due back). I would love to meet you and discuss your visit as well as our industry i general when you next visit or maybe over a coffee if you are free within the next few days. Have a great day. Kind regards. Fred.